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Ukraine war live updates: Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington hailed a historic success; Kyiv’s energy situation remains dire

Kremlin says Patriot missiles for Kyiv won’t help settle Ukraine conflict

The Kremlin on Thursday said that U.S. supplies of Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, announced during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington on Wednesday, would not contribute to settling the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv, and would not prevent Russia from achieving its goals.

A Patriot missile launching system.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

In a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that there had been no signs of readiness for peace talks during Zelenskiy’s visit, and that this was evidence that the United States was fighting a proxy war with Russia “to the last Ukrainian”.

— Reuters

Kherson region shelled 60 times on Wednesday, official says

A pedestrian walks past a residential building damaged by Russian shelling in Kherson on December 20, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | Getty Images

Russian forces shelled the southern region of Kherson 60 times on Wednesday, according to a Ukrainian official.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, head of the Kherson regional military administration, said on Telegram that one person had died and six others were injured in the attacks, according to a Google translation of his post.

He added that the region had been shelled 60 times, using artillery, mortars, multiple launch rocket systems and tanks. Residential neighborhoods had come under fire, Yanushevych added, as well as the shipyard, private and apartment buildings.

CNBC was unable to immediately verify the information in the post.

— Holly Ellyatt

‘No change for the better’: Kyiv’s energy situation remains dire, and could get worse

Drones attacked the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv early on the morning of Dec. 19, 2022, the Kyiv city military administration said, urging people to heed air alerts.

Sergei Supinsky | Afp | Getty Images

The electricity supplier covering the Kyiv region has warned that there is “no change for the better” as the capital and surrounding area struggle with power outages — with some areas having no power since drone attacks on Monday damaged more energy infrastructure.

Sergey Kovalenko, the CEO of Yasno, a major private energy supplier covering the Kyiv region, said on Facebook Wednesday night that “the supply situation in Kyiv is the toughest in the country today. There are those areas that receive light about 5 hours a day. There are those with light 2-3 hours a day. And there are those without light at all from the last shelling,” he said, according to a NBC translation.

“The city cannot draw power from the country’s energy system due to damage to high-voltage equipment,” he added.

Kovalenko added that the key problem facing the city right now was not power generation, but damaged power networks, particularly transformers and substations.

“Does it get any better than now? Maybe when the repair work is over,” he said. “Can it get any worse? Yes, if we get shot at again,” he said. More precisely, the situation would get worse if the remaining functioning equipment is damaged, he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Belarus’ military likely taking on ‘significant’ role in training of Russian reservists, UK says

Allied Resolve 2022 joint military drills held by Belarusian and Russian troops at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground.

Peter Kovalev | TASS | Getty Images

Russia’s ally Belarus is likely taking a discreet but significant role in training Russian reservists, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

Reflecting on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Minsk earlier this week to meet his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, the U.K. said discussions there included talk of a “single defence space.”

“Although Russia and Belarus prominently publicise Russian units’ deployments into Belarus, the armed forces of Belarus have likely recently taken on a significant, but more discreet role in training thousands of newly mobilised Russian reservists,” the ministry said in an intelligence update on Twitter.

“The likely use of Belarusian instructors is an attempt to partially remediate the lack of Russian military trainers, many of whom are deployed in Ukraine or have become casualties,” it added.

Although Russia and Belarus have an extensive background of military cooperation, the training of mobilized Russian personnel by Belarusians represents something of a role reversal, the U.K. said.

“Belarusian forces have traditionally been considered by Russia as inferior to Russian forces and their employment as trainers is an indication of overstretch within the Russian military system.” 

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy gives Congress a Ukrainian battle flag from contested city of Bakhmut

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the US Congress as US Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hold a Ukrainian national flag at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on December 21, 2022.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

At the close of an historic address to Congress, Zelenskyy presented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Vice President Kamala Harris with a unique gift: A flag from the city that has become the spiritual epicenter of Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion.

“When I was in Bakhmut yesterday, our heroes gave me the battle flag, the flag of those who defend Ukraine, Europe and the world at the cost of their lives,” said Zelenskyy. “They asked me to bring this flag to you, to the U.S. Congress, to members of the House of Representatives and Senators whose decisions can save millions of people.”

“So let these decisions be taken. Let this flag stay with you, ladies and gentlemen. This flag is a symbol of our victory in this war. We stand, we fight, and we will win because we are united, Ukraine, America and the entire free world,” he said. Pelosi and Harris gave Zelenskyy an American flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol earlier in the day.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky receives from US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (L) a US national flag during his address to the US Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on December 21, 2022.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

The small city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine has seen some of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighting of the war in recent months, as both Ukraine and Russia have bestowed outsized significance on the city‘s value as a symbolic and strategic prize.

The Bakhmut flag presentation was one of several moments in Zelenskyy’s speech during which he made a point of acknowledging the crucial role that Congress plays in approving U.S. foreign aid to countries like Ukraine.

The timing was no accident: Both chambers of Congress are set to vote in the coming days on a federal funding bill that contains $44.9 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine.

— Christina Wilkie

‘We’ll celebrate Christmas’ by candlelight in bomb shelters, Zelenskyy tells Congress

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the US Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on December 21, 2022. – Zelensky is in Washington to meet with US President Joe Biden and address Congress — his first trip abroad since Russia invaded in February. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Mandel Ngan | Afp | Getty Images

Four days before Christmas, Zelenskyy painted a vivid picture of how his country would celebrate the holiday, despite being under near constant Russian artillery attack and with millions of people without electricity or running water in freezing temperatures.

“We’ll celebrate Christmas, and even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith in ourselves will not be put out,” he said in a rousing speech to a joint meeting of Congress. “If Russian missiles attack us, we’ll do our best to protect ourselves. If they attack us with Iranian drones and our people have to go to bomb shelters on Christmas Eve, Ukrainians will still sit down at the holiday table and cheer up each other,” he said.

“We don’t don’t have to know everyone’s wish, as we know that all of us millions of Ukrainians wish the same. Victory, only victory.”

— Christina Wilkie

Zelenskyy evokes Battle of the Bulge, Saratoga in appeal to U.S. Congress

Cabinet members and members of Congress applause as Zelenskyy speaks during a joint meeting of Congress.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Zelenskyy received loud applause from the U.S. Congress Wednesday night as he compared Ukraine’s fight for its survival to U.S. battles from World War II and the American Revolution.

Zelenskyy compared Ukraine’s ongoing defensive stand against Russian troops in the east of the country around Bakhmut to American troops’ successful defense against German troops in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. Both battles raged through the Christmas season.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Ukrainian service members at their position in the frontline town of Bakhmut, Ukraine, on December 20, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Via Reuters

Zelenskyy went on to say he hopes for a turning point in the Ukraine war in 2023, similar to American revolutionaries’ victory at Saratoga. At that series of battles in 1777, Americans defeated imperial British troops in Upstate New York.

France began openly supplying the Americans with arms after Saratoga. Continued weapons shipments were part of Zelenskyy’s plea before Congress.

“We Ukrainians will also undergo our war of independence with dignity and success,” the Ukrainian president said.

— Ted Kemp

‘Your money is not charity,’ Zelenskyy assures Congress of $45 billion Ukraine aid package

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, center, arrives to speak during a joint meeting of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.

Nathan Howard | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Zelenskyy was frank about the need for more aid from the U.S. Congress and the United States in order for Ukraine to drive Russian forces from his country.

“We have artillery. Yes. We have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really,” he said in a memorable speech to a joint meeting of Congress.

“I believe there should be no taboos between us in our alliance. Ukraine never asked the American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us,” he said. “And I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes themselves.”

“Financial assistance is also critically important, and I would like to thank you, thank you very much,” Zelenskyy continued. “Thank you for both financial packages you have already provided us with and the ones you may be willing to decide on.”

“Your money is not charity. It is an investment in global security and democracy, that we handle in the most responsible way.”

Zelenskyy’s assurance about Ukrainian stewardship of U.S. funds came as Congress prepares to authorize a $44.9 billion military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine over the coming year.

One of the goals of Zelenskyy’s last-minute trip to Washington was to firm up support for this aid.

— Christina Wilkie

Congress gives Zelenskyy big, long standing ovation

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, center, arrives to speak during a joint meeting of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.

Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a long standing ovation from members of Congress and Cabinet secretaries in the House chamber tonight as he arrived to give an historic speech to a joint session of the legislature.

Both Republicans and Democrats stood and clapped and cheered for at least two minutes.

“”It’s too much for me,” Zelenskyy said at the podium, placing his hand to his heart. “All this for our great people. Thank you.”

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, center, arrives to speak during a joint meeting of Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022.

Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Russia’s attacks on civilian targets led to Zelenskyy White House meeting, Kirby says

Civilians sit on an escalator while take shelter inside a metro station during an air raid alert in the centre of Kyiv on December 16, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

Russia’s increased attacks on civilian infrastructure and “civilian targets” in Ukraine necessitated the meeting between Biden and Zelenskyy, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“As winter approaches, these kinds of attacks against infrastructure are really changing the face and the character of the war,” Kirby said. “The president felt it was important to have this face to face meeting with President Zelenskyy to discuss the way forward.”

Kirby said Biden would detail plans for air defense assistance when the president speaks Wednesday and make it clear the Ukraine has the full backing of the United States.

The recent civilian targets, Kirby said, are another example of how Russian President Vladimir Putin shows “no interest at all in trying to find a path out of this war.”

Emma Kinery

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

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